Why Does Ice Form on Air Conditioning Coils?

If you’ve taken a look inside your air conditioning system, you may have noticed frost or ice forming on the evaporator coils. It probably doesn’t provoke much alarm. Air conditioners are supposed to be cold after all, and frost would seem to be a natural offshoot of that. In point of fact, however, it’s a sign of something seriously wrong with your air conditioner, and should be treated as a significant repair issue. Why does ice form on air conditioning coils, and why should that alarm homeowners? The answers lie in the way air conditioning works.

THE PROCESS

You probably know that an air conditioner relies on refrigerant to do its job, though few people are aware of the precise nature of the interaction. The refrigerant first shifts from gaseous to liquid form and is placed under a great deal of pressure before it enters the evaporator coils. The valve release a set amount into the coils, where the refrigerant shifts from liquid back to gaseous form. As it does so, it pulls heat from the nearby air, cooling it in the process. The air can then be blown into your home through the ductwork to lower the temperature.

THE PROBLEM

That process is very delicate and depends on the air conditioner working precisely as intended. If trouble arises, frost or ice will form, representing lost cooling potential that should be going into your home. That means higher bills and increased wear and tear on the system.

It gets worse. The ice forms an insulating barrier between the refrigerant and the air it’s supposed to cool, which means that the system will need to work even harder to do its job. More ice forms as a matter of course, and until the underlying issue is addressed, the situation will get worse and worse. Sooner or later, a serious breakdown will occur, turning the relatively simple job of fixing the underlying problem into something much more complicated and expensive.

THE SOLUTION

Ice will form on the coils for a number of different reasons. It can include leaking refrigerant, but may also be caused by faulty fan motors, clogs in the filters, dust on the coils or any of a dozen different culprits. For this reason, you should never attempt to scrape the ice off of the coils. For starters, it won’t fix the problem, and the ice will simply re-form. More importantly, you run a high risk of damaging the coils, a very expensive component that may force you to replace the entire unit.

It’s important for a trained technician to take a look at the system, determine the underlying cause and treat it with care are attention. In many cases, it won’t take much to do so, but it does take the kind of training and experience that only a professional can provide. If you spot ice in your air conditioner, shut it off immediately can call in a repair service.

For quality AC repair in the Lake Oswego, OR area, contact Western Heating & Cooling today!

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